What is MerMay and why are people so into drawing mermaids this month? : NPR

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Former Disney artist Tom Bancroft drew two mermaids on “Shelfon,” whose popularity influenced MerMay.

Tom Bancroft


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Tom Bancroft

What started out as a pun has become a global art challenge loved by countless illustrators.

This is MerMay. This is a one-month art challenge where artists create daily mermaid works and post them online with the hashtag #mermay.

In 2016, former Disney animator Tom Bancroft drew two relaxing mermaids while watching a scene inspired by his daughter, “Shellphone.” When he posted the image on social media, it became viral, he told NPR.

“And I realized,’Oh, awesome, I really like mermaids,’ and no one would take advantage of that fantasy realm,” he said.

Freelance artist Sylvia Brunetti said she thought of seahorses at MerMay’s 13th day prompt “Cyberpunk.”

Silvia Brunetti


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Silvia Brunetti


Freelance artist Sylvia Brunetti said she thought of seahorses at MerMay’s 13th day prompt “Cyberpunk.”

Silvia Brunetti

The popularity of images has influenced Bancroft. He came up with the idea of ​​posting a picture of a mermaid every day. Weekends are optional. May 2016. Bancroft invited his fellow creators to him. It quickly became popular because he already had quite a few online followers thanks to his work with Disney.

Hundreds of thousands of people participated in Mermei’s first year, according to Bancroft. Since then, every year to inspire artists, he comes up with a list of daily prompts to incorporate into their work.

Many people enjoy this aspect of the challenge, according to Bancroft. Especially because you can see the hashtag of the day to see how other artists approached the prompt.

People can now also tag their work and participate in the MerMay 2022 Art Contest, which offers prizes like the Wacom Cintiq drawing tablet.

Artist Liana Hee uses gouache paint to create such a mermaid in 2021. Amaryllis.

Liana Hee


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Liana Hee


Artist Liana Hee uses gouache paint to create such a mermaid in 2021. Amaryllis.

Liana Hee

Part of MerMay’s success may be due to its subject matter.Disney Little mermaid It was a commercial hit when it was released in 1989. Some of the kids who saw it in the theater have grown into artists who are currently participating in MerMay.

“I’ve been drawing mermaids since I was little, probably since I was four. Little mermaid Character designer and illustrator Liana Hee told NPR, “I was crazy about their designs.”

Based in Los Angeles, Hee has been doing it every year since the launch of MerMay. This year she was brought in to help judge the contest.

She doesn’t follow MerMay’s daily prompts, but finds other ways to challenge herself. Sometimes Hi draws a mermaid based on the actual fish type and clothing pattern. This year she paints all her work as a mini-gash painting. Each piece is only 2½ x 3 inches.

“It’s really great to be able to connect with strangers over the internet like this,” Hi said. “It’s an artist who really supports artists, and I think we have such a small community. It’s really special.”

Regarding MerMay’s 9th day prompt “#sealife,” Rome-based artist Silvia Brunetti said she painted “an old mermaid and her beloved catfish.”

Silvia Brunetti


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Silvia Brunetti

For artists like Felix d’Eon, MerMay is an opportunity to show that mermaids are invisible in certain ways. An artist based in Mexico City praises queer, trance and fat body in his work.

“When people usually see mermaids, I think there are a lot of the same things like sexy white women, and mine isn’t,” Deon told NPR.

It’s not uncommon to see partial nude mermaid art during MerMay. Mermaids are usually thin and are based on Western beauty standards.

Deon said he disabled his Instagram account after posting a picture of a fat mermaid. He said he hadn’t recovered yet, as his income fell by 60%. He sees this as unacceptable physical censorship.

Coral and kiss Is one of Felix Deon’s paintings celebrating strange love and identity using mythical beings.

Felix Deon


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Felix Deon


Coral and kiss Is one of Felix Deon’s paintings celebrating strange love and identity using mythical beings.

Felix Deon

He considers his work to be a double standard when many others have not been reported. He said it’s great that others can post mermaids, but “when I post a weird mermaid, when I post a kissing mermaid … a fat mermaid, a trance mermaid. When posting-I’m in trouble. “

Mythical beings like mermaids are important to the Queer people who feel they are not fit for the culture in which they live, Deon said.

“You’re like seeing yourself reflected in it,” he said. “As you know, as these people who are both and neither … they encapsulate these really beautiful fantasies of being people in between.”

For the past two years, MerMay has a mascot. Artist and toy designer Whitney Pollet, who is helping Bankloft carry out the challenge this year, designed both.

Pollet has incorporated elements of toy design into the concept of the mermaid mascot. It’s fun, fashion and friendship. She drew a mermaid wearing a mermaid all over her body, each with a different personality.

“It’s like a tough guy, and it’s an explorer, and it’s really sweet and quiet,” Polett said. “I laughed a little at myself, as if I had so much fun that I started drawing new starfish.”

This year, the name of the mermaid is Harmony.

“Now I feel that the world needs a little more harmony,” Bancroft said.

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